FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | May 19, 2015

Trying to find Google's Apps for Education Terms of Service page is akin to spending a weekend unicorn hunting while quaffing cocktails from the Holy Grail.

And please, if I have missed an obvious place where Google's current Terms of Service for Apps for Edu are linked, please tell me. I have spent a foolishy long amount of time trying to nail this down, and I would love to know that I had missed something obvious. The shadow of a PEBKAC looms long, and could easily extend into this examination.

Our quest for current Google Apps for Edu Terms of Service leads from Google's Trust page, to the signup page where a district or school would get Apps for Edu, to the Product list, to the product overview page, to the top-level Google for Education page, to Google search (which leads to outdated terms).

It seems like the most reliable way to see the Terms of Service for Google...

Bill Fitzgerald | May 13, 2015

Last night, I had the opportunity to present on privacy issues in educational technology to the Portland EdTech meetup. We had about 45 minutes to talk, which let us scratch the surface. We also had a good mix of vendors, people from higher ed, and people from K12. I'd love to see parents and (gasp) students in the mix at future events. I strongly prefer getting different stakeholders together, as all stakeholders benefit from hearing different perspectives and concerns.

The slides from the presentation are on Google Drive. The presentation is licensed under a...

Bill Fitzgerald | May 1, 2015

As is very obvious to the three regular readers of the FunnyMonkey blog, we care about privacy. Our work around privacy comes directly from our belief that learner agency and learner control are both essential elements in education, and frequently ignored elements of our educational process. Our commitment to learner agency informs much of the work we do - it's why, in addition to privacy, we care about open content, student-directed portfolios, and empowering people and organizations via open source tools.

Over the last eleven years, as part of our work with FunnyMonkey, we have been able to work on a range of projects covering all of these issues. We have been fortunate to work with some amazing people at some amazing organizations. Although software development is a big part of what we do, we never looked at software as the end goal of any project. Technology isn't neutral, and we always worked with people to make sure that any solution removed barriers to doing good work...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 6, 2015

If you are building and selling an EdTech product, you can benefit from having people on the sales and marketing teams go through the user-facing interface of your product. As part of this process, you should also have members of these teams read through your terms of service and privacy policies.

This came up in a conversation today about the terms of service and privacy policies of a service called "PaperRater." I have a screengrab of the discussion.

I observed that one of the odd things about the service was that it appeared to have two separate policies: one for the free service, and a second set of terms for the premium service.

The terms for the free service are linked from the main PaperRater site:...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 25, 2015

Over the last few years, we have been looking at ways in which privacy policies and data stewardship can be improved. Over that time, one of the issues we have encountered repeatedly is that it is difficult to track how and why policies change over time. This lack of transparency hurts people who want to learn about privacy, and how an application treats student data. It also hurts companies - these decisions should be part of organizational culture, and losing them means losing an opportunity to see how a company has evolved and improved over time.

These issues are addressed via a small, simple change: placing terms of service, privacy policies, and other related policy docs on GitHub. Over on the Clever blog, Mohit Gupta has a great blog post describing how...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 23, 2015

In the recent days, people have attempted to justify doxxing. Ironically, a person was doxxed in the name of student privacy. I didn't think that it would be necessary - in the education space - to have a conversation about why doxxing is a very bad idea, but here we are.

I left the text below as a comment but I wanted to post this here as well so I have a copy.

If you are in the education world, or the technology world, please speak up on this issue.

From the comment:

I noticed in reading through this most recent post that you omitted this pretty thorough debunking of both the doxxing angle, and the actual conflict of interest that has been used to justify the doxxing: http...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 14, 2015

As part of their work on PARCC, Pearson appears to be monitoring social media accounts for mention of the test. This monitoring appears to make no distinctions between student accounts, teacher accounts, or anyone else.

This recently came to light when an email from a school superintendent in New Jersey was shared publicly. I'm including a version of the email in this post for context. However, unlike many other places where this was shared, I am removing the sender's name and contact info. In this post, we'll also address some of the issues around how this story came out.

Superintendent email - cellphone pic of printed text

From the above email, it sounds like something like this happened:

Pearson's...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 6, 2015

Clever recently updated their privacy terms, and their method and process provides a good example for other companies to replicate.

First, they checked their privacy policy and terms of service into Github. This is a simple step that any edtech company can do. By having terms checked into git, we automatically get an annotated changelog of how terms evolve. This log is a great step toward increased transparency. All companies are using some form...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 5, 2015

Microsoft, Google, and Apple all maintain app stores with sections dedicated to education.

Unfortunately, within the EdTech space, many vendors lag behind broader industry standards around security - including basic things like encrypting connections and logins via SSL.

If Microsoft, Apple, and Google all started...

Bill Fitzgerald | February 25, 2015

The Civil Rights Project has an updated report on rates of suspension in schools that came out on February 23rd. The report has some great details that show the scope of the issues facing us as we attempt to dismantle the school to prison pipeline.

But as I read about disproportionate rates of suspension based on race, I also think about the increased use of School Resource Officers, which place a beat cop in many schools. This results in school discipline issues becoming criminal justice issues.

This all takes place against the backdrop of the growing pushback against Common Core aligned assessments. Getting into the full scope of these arguments is not the focus of this piece,...

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